Artists, agents concerned over provision

WASHINGTON — Recording Industry Assn. of America prexy Hilary Rosen has joined musicians and their managers in a call for hearings on a provision slipped through Congress late last year that determines when the right to distribute millions of songs will revert back to the performers who recorded them.

Rosen’s org pushed the provision through Congress but now faces mounting criticism from artists and their agents who claim the language, which deems recorded music a “work for hire,” would block performers from collecting billions of dollars in future revenue. The RIAA insists that the change in the law was little more than a formality and that it has been standard industry practice to treat recorded music as a work for hire.

As early as this week, Rosen will send a letter to Congress asking for hearings on the issue. Representatives of artists said over the weekend that they were not impressed, however.

“I am really pleased that the RIAA has agreed that hearings should be held,” said Margaret Cone, who reps several artists in D.C. “What the RIAA should do is support a repeal of the amendment and go through the normal legislative process.”

If the RIAA amendment had not passed, artists of recordings made after 1978 would be able to reclaim eventually the masters of their performances after 35 years.

The clock started ticking on the copyright provision in 1978, meaning that recording companies’ rights to some music will begin terminating in 2013.

The RIAA insists that there is some confusion under current law. For instance, it is not clear who the owner of a master is since all performers involved in a recording, including studio musicians, have a stake in the master, according to one RIAA lawyer.

Hearings are expected to take place on the issue as early as March.

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